SEMA News - August 2010

By Chad Simon

How to Attract Buyers to Your Booth

  SEMA News-August 2010-Events 

SEMA sends relevant advertising messages and direct-mail pieces to many market niches that have different needs and interests.   

In just a few months, specialty-equipment exhibitors will descend upon Las Vegas for the annual SEMA Show, providing qualified buyers with a can’t-miss opportunity to check out new products, connect with industry suppliers and peers, stay up-to-date on industry trends and attend educational seminars. Those are only four of the most common reasons for attending the Show, according to Tom Myroniak, SEMA vice president of marketing and member services. Myroniak led an exhibitor training seminar about how to bring buyers to your booth at the first-ever SEMA Show Exhibitor Summit at the Las Vegas Convention Center on May 25–27. He said that it was critical for exhibitors to understand the goals of buyers prior to the Show in order to capture their attention.

With more than 100,000 active attendees—one-quarter of whom are from outside the United States—this year’s Show campaign is entitled, “Behind Your Business 100%.”

How SEMA Reaches the Industry

SEMA sends relevant advertising messages and direct-mail pieces to many market niches that have different needs and interests. For instance, more than 170,000 industry professionals receive the monthly SEMA News magazine. The SEMA Show Daily newspaper is printed in four editions for Show attendees and reaches 40,000 buyers. SEMA eNews, the association’s electronic newsletter, is sent to 160,000 industry subscribers every Thursday and offers a section for exhibitors to promote Show specials as well as celebrity appearances and autograph sessions.

SEMA also has formed partnerships with several media outlets, which allow the association to run print advertising in more than 100 publications. Voicemail broadcasts, direct mail, SEMA’s website and social media collectively provide the association with a comprehensive, multichannel approach to reaching industry professionals.

According to Myroniak, SEMA makes a great effort to build educational programs for attendees because they add value and attract more people to the Show. Dealer Day, to be held November 3, launched two years ago and is a one-day educational program that targets new-vehicle dealers and teaches them how to sell accessories through their businesses. And an educational conference called the SEMA Online Marketing Conference, which was inaugurated last year and will be held November 1, teaches small businesses how to use online channels to promote and sell their products. A pair of two-day programs—the I-CAR collision-repair training course and a powersports dealer workshop—are both new for this year and will be held November 1–2. Another new offering for this year is the Society of Collision Repair Specialists educational series, to be held November 4–5.

In addition to attending any of the 60-plus available educational workshops, connecting with industry peers is crucial for SEMA Show participants. There are council receptions, an industry banquet and a speed networking breakfast among the many opportunities. SEMA also has negotiated with Cox Video to provide 24/7 access to in-room exhibitor videos in Las Vegas hotels, providing exhibitors a further opportunity to address buyers who might not have considered them prior to the Show.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Tradeshow Marketing

It may seem like a no-brainer, but devise a game plan before arriving in Las Vegas to make the most of your SEMA Show experience and then follow through. If you want to not have a successful Show, simply adhere to the following seven deadly sins:

  • Come to the Show without a clear and comprehensive plan. This is obviously wrong. Instead, have your goals and roles defined prior to your arrival. If necessary, train your staff about what to do before they arrive and remind them when they get there.
  • Don’t promote your involvement before arrival. Eighty-seven percent of SEMA buyers already have a game plan mapped out before they arrive. If you’re not on the radar before the Show, you must hope to somehow attract buyers come Show time while competing against 2,000 other companies trying to do the same thing.
  • Miss important Show deadlines. This ends up costing you more money and lessens your return on investment.
    Don’t ask your account representative or SEMA staff for help.
  • Don’t take advantage of available programs. The New Product Showcase and feature vehicle placement are great opportunities to extend your footprint on the Show floor and get the attention of buyers.
  • Don’t promote your exhibit onsite.
  • Don’t follow up with customer leads after the Show.

New Programs and Features

  Official 2010 SEMA Show Logo 
Many new programs this year will make it easier for exhibitors to reach buyers. SEMA’s online matching tool provides an opportunity for exhibitors to connect to buyers electronically. SEMA matches exhibitor registration data with buyers who have similar interests, allowing them to connect with buyers prior to the Show.

“Double-book appointments because most people either don’t show up or they show up late,” Myroniak suggested. “The worst-case scenario is that you’ll have people standing around in your booth—which is actually a good thing. When people see a crowd, they wonder what is going on.”

Another new feature for this year is an exhibitor invite program, which allows exhibitors to send their prospects and customers invitations to the Show on their behalf without providing SEMA with their contact lists. Exhibitors often have contacts that SEMA does not have, and an invitation from an exhibitor sent by a trusted source is a good opportunity to let others know of their involvement with the Show.

Other programs available through SEMA include feature-vehicle placement, a New Products Showcase, SEMA Show Directory, SEMA Show Pocket Guide, an International Buyer’s Guide, technical seminars and networking events. Feature-vehicle placement allows media, installers and vehicle builders to see what specialty products look like when they are installed on a vehicle, which helps gain interest for those products.

SEMA distributes 30,000 copies of its Show Directory and Pocket Guide to attendees. Both include exhibitor listings and a Show-floor map. The International Buyers’ Guide is available to buyers outside the United States who are looking for U.S. companies and products they can bring to market.

SEMA also promotes the availability of OE project vehicles. “We’ve been trying to convince the OEs that our industry helps them to sell more vehicles,” Myroniak said. “We have made a lot of progress in that regard over the past five years. The OEs now recognize the SEMA Show as a must-attend event for their marketing campaigns, and several have introduced new vehicles at the Show. They also provide project vehicles that industry professionals may obtain for product installation and to display at the Show. We work with the OEs to help connect our members to the vehicle platforms they’re trying to promote at the Show.”

The New Products Showcase is the biggest missed opportunity at the Show, according to Myroniak. It’s not feasible for buyers to walk the entire Show floor looking for new products; most use the New Products Showcase as a way to make the most efficient use of their time so they can easily find the products in which they are interested. SEMA provides product photos and information to all attendees. The first product submitted by exhibitors to SEMA’s New Products Showcase is free, and there is a fee of $75 for each subsequent product. The deadline to submit new products at the discounted rate is October 8; after, entries are $150.  


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